Opinion Letters

May 9, 2022 – Opinion ‘Vote like it matters,’ even with damaged ballots – Published in Pamplin Media by Chair Tootie Smith

Clackamas County Commission Chair Tootie Smith pledges to push for ‘accountability and transparency’ in future elections.

As a voter and chair of the Clackamas County Commission, I was aghast when I heard of the misprinting of ballots mailed to voters.

Many questions came through my mind: Is my ballot secure? Will my vote count? How can I trust government to do what is right?

Nothing is more honorable and sacred than the integrity of elections and full trust in the outcome.

Regardless of intent or innocence of a mistake, there will be lingering questions about this election and the process used to remedy the situation.

The elected county clerk is an independent official of the county and must assure the fair and unbiased operations of elections. If there were time or an allowance in law, I would call that the ballots be reprinted and reissued. However, it is not possible to do that.

As chair of the Clackamas County Commission, I do not have authority over the elected county clerk. However, my most important job is to build public trust in government. You can rest assured I am always pushing for accountability and transparency in future elections.

I was assured by the Oregon Secretary of State in a phone call that Oregon law addresses the issue of damaged ballots as in this case.

Clackamas County Elections will be using the method as laid out in law to ensure accuracy and honor voter intent. Immediate election results could be delayed by the sheer volume of affected ballots, which is not completely known at this time.

The Oregon Legislature has allowed an additional seven days to process and count ballots, if necessary.

For now, the most important action we can collectively take is to vote like it matters — because it does.

Tootie Smith is chair of Clackamas County’s board of commissioners.

May 8, 2022 – Opinion: Clackamas County can’t afford any more election mistakes – Published in Clackamas Review (Pamplin Media) by Tom Feely

Former Budget Committee member: Join me in supporting Catherine McMullen, who will not tolerate embarrassing missteps.

Clackamas County cannot afford any more election related mistakes by the incumbent county clerk.

Blurry barcodes that can’t be read by machine are just the latest in a series of issues that have plagued the quality of our elections since 2012. While the current county clerk blames the printer, where was the quality control? During my career, I utilized a printing vendor for many big projects, but there was always a quality-control process upon receiving the print job back from the vendor. It was much better to catch the problem before the publications were sent out to the public. This current problem is estimated to impact up to 309,000 ballots countywide and will require that they be hand counted.

Sadly, this is not the first issue with the current clerk’s office performance. In June of 2016, it was reported that a missing box of ballots turned up after the initial counting had been completed. This discovery required last-minute vote tally changes just before the county’s deadline to certify the election results to the state.

Another incident occurred in 2012, where volunteer election workers were found to be filling in ballots where no selection had been made. According to reports, criminal charges were filed.

It is the clerk’s responsibility to make sure that effective oversight and quality control exists in our elections. That is not now the case.

Clackamas County voters have a choice in November to make a change for higher quality elections. Catherine McMullen is a seasoned elections official who will bring quality control and effective oversight to the county clerk’s office where it is desperately needed.

Clackamas County citizens deserve better and we have the perfect opportunity in November’s election to make a change for the better. Join me in supporting Catherine McMullen, who will not tolerate embarrassing election missteps.

Tom Feely is a former member of the Clackamas County Budget Committee and a resident of unincorporated north Clackamas County.

May 7, 2022 – Five citizens: We can’t wait to vote Sherry Hall out of office – Published in Clackamas Review (Pamplin Media) by Allison Cloo, Sandy; Jeanette DeCastro, Clackamas; Joe K. Meyer, Happy Valley; Paul Sheprow, Milwaukie; and Cassie Wilson, Boring

Clackamas County voters say choice is clear to pick Catherine McMullen as next election clerk

At a time when election integrity is of the utmost importance, once again, Sherry Hall is costing taxpayers thousands of dollars for a mistake that seems to have been preventable. The Secretary of State is now stepping in with directives that the Clackamas County Clerk’s Office needs to follow in order to ensure the integrity, security and transparency of the election is preserved.

While the clerk is blaming the printer, Moonlight BPO, for the mistake, we have to ask why there wasn’t a representative from the clerk’s office at the printer’s making sure that the 309,000 ballots were printing correctly? Having a staff member overseeing this printing process would be an incredibly worthwhile expenditure considering what taxpayers are now going to have to pay for because of Hall’s mistake.

We have been following Catherine McMullen since she announced her candidacy for clerk last summer, and we can’t wait to vote for her in November. McMullen is a certified elections administrator who actually holds a higher elections-administrator credential than Sherry Hall. She has been running and administering elections for over 10 years and has won numerous awards over the course of her elections work. Compare that with the current clerk and the choice becomes clear.

Clackamas County deserves to have a clerk who has a proven record of doing her job well instead of one with a list of mistakes as long as she has been in office. You can find out about McMullen at ClackamasVoice.org.

April 24, 2022 – Clerk Candidate: Closed Party Primaries Could Disenfranchise 121K Clackamas County Voters – OpEd by Catherine McMullen Published in Canby First

Oregon’s current closed party primary system keeps unaffiliated and minor party voters out of important decision-making in our primary elections. There are now more than 1,022,000 nonaffiliated voters in Oregon — more than the total in either the Democratic or Republican parties in our state.

However, in each primary election, hundreds of thousands of registered Oregon voters are not permitted to vote in partisan primary elections for their preferred candidates. In Oregon, the two major parties (Democratic and Republican) have “closed primary elections.”

This means that you have to be a member of that party in order to vote in their closed election. The party choice deadline is 21 days before Election Day, the same day as the voter registration deadline: Tuesday, April 26.

These non-affiliated voters share with me as their local election official that “I’m not a member of a party so my vote doesn’t count.” Voters feel disenfranchised and that spills over into apathy and a mistrust of the system as a whole.

In Clackamas County alone, more than 99,000 voters are Non-Affiliated (meaning that they do not belong to any party) and another almost 22,000 voters belong to the Independent Party of Oregon or other minor parties.

That means that 121,000 voters, or 40% of registered voters in Clackamas County won’t have a say in who our next governor is and won’t have a say in who their representatives are in the state Senate, state House, U.S. Senate, or U.S. Congress in the upcoming May Primary Election.

They won’t be able to participate until they are simply making a choice between one Democrat, one Republican, and sometimes, a third-party candidate.

As an elections administrator and voter education advocate, I know that voters often do not realize they are unable to choose the next governor or next president until they receive their ballot in the mail and it does not show those partisan offices or the candidate they were planning to vote for.

The bad news is that after you receive your ballot, it is too late to choose a party. The rules are determined by the two major political parties and the state constitution allows the exclusion of all non-party members.

What can you do about it?

Right Now: Decide if you want to vote in the Republican primary, the Democratic primary, or abstain and have only nonpartisan offices on your ballot for the May 17 primary election. Update your party choice online at oregonvotes.gov/myvote before the April 26 deadline (11:59 p.m. online, close of business in-person, or postmarked by April 26 on a registration form).

Then: Follow and support initiative petitions like 2022-039 that would allow voters to decide on the November General Election ballot if in fact the Oregon Constitution should be amended to replace the Closed Party Primary with an Open Primary for state and federal offices. This would allow all registered voters to select candidates in the Primary to move on to the General Election.

April 18, 2022 –  Opinion: Catherine McMullen is ready to be Clackamas County clerk – Published in the Pamplin Media Clackamas Review on April 18, 2022 – Jaime Mathis: Sherry Hall has been doing this job for 20 years and she is not doing it accurately

I have lived in Clackamas County for over 35 years and during this time, Sherry Hall has been the county clerk for almost half of them. The vast majority of the elections I have participated in have been administered by her. I have always been a very engaged voter around issues and public facing candidates, but I took for granted that the actual people who make sure our elections are secure, accurate, accessible and well-run were doing just that.

It is crucial for voters to have correct information about what we are voting for and where to drop off our ballots. On April 18, when I looked up the official drop box sites for Clackamas County on the clerk’s website, the dates for the May primary election (May 17) read “October 14th-November 3rd, 2020.” After digging around the site, I finally found that official ballot boxes open 20 days before the election, when the official date of the May election was, and then counted backward 20 days to find out the earliest I could actually drop off my ballot.

Sherry Hall has been doing this job for 20 years and she is not doing it accurately. As I researched her career, I began compiling a timeline of newspaper articles and media coverage on her elections-related mistakes and their cost to the taxpayers of Clackamas County. In nearly every election, Sherry Hall has made either an informational error, such as leaving key ballot measures off the ballot, or included false information that has resulted in having to reprint thousands of ballots, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Clackamas County’s chair in 2010 said of this, “Ms. Hall neglected the single most important duty of her office — to ensure that our elections run smoothly.” 

This is not a matter of ideology, but of basic competence by a fellow elected official. 

State legislators make less than $40,000 per year to do the critical work of creating the laws for our state. They are compelled to run very public campaigns and face intense public scrutiny over their qualifications and their character. This is not the case with our county clerk. 

Clackamas County’s clerk earns an annual salary of over $110,000 and rarely makes the news during their electoral races. This means there is little, if any, public oversight or inquiry into the fitness of candidates running for this vital office in our democracy. 

It is time for Clackamas County citizens to invest in their democracy by looking closely at the candidates running for county clerk in the Nov. 8 general election.

Sherry Hall came to the office of clerk in 2002 and has had 20 years to unsuccessfully prove her competence. 

As of now, there are two registered candidates for the office of Clackamas County Clerk, Sherry Hall and Catherine McMullen. 

McMullen is a certified elections administrator through the Oregon Association of County Clerks with a record of award-winning voter education initiatives and a track record of accurate, accessible and secure elections. 

Sherry Hall does not have a campaign website and only offers the county-clerk job description in Voters’ Pamphlet statements from past elections. Perhaps she thinks that by describing her job, she can do it. 

Jaime Mathis is a resident of Oak Grove and works in education, policy and communications.

March 23, 2022 – West Linn Tidings

March 23, 2022 – Catherine McMullen for Clackamas County Clerk – Readers Letter published in Pamplin Media’s West Linn Tidings

Events of this past year have demonstrated the importance of free and fair elections. Our county clerks are critical links between citizens and their local government. They are charged with ensuring secure and transparent elections. I recommend Catherine McMullen as our next Clackamas County clerk. She has conducted elections since 2015 and is committed to eliminating barriers to voter participation, increasing voter education and bringing transparency to our election process. 

Catherine will be on the ballot this November since Oregon law provides that when only two county clerk candidates are in the primary election, both will proceed directly to the November election. 

One function of the Clackamas County clerk is conducting weddings. The current clerk no longer exercises her authority in this area since the legalization of same-sex marriages. Catherine will revive the county clerk’s officiation over civil weddings and afford all citizens the right to marry. The freedom for individuals to follow their own spiritual beliefs, pursue happiness and establish meaningful civil relationships is a fundamental right that Catherine believes all people deserve. 

Catherine brings experience, expertise and a commitment to all people in Clackamas County. Vote Catherine McMullen for Clackamas County clerk.

William House